A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Dec 13, 2011

Israel Bans Cat Declawing

Israel has joined the list of over 20 countries to ban cat declawing. Unless performed within the narrow medical necessity exemptions, the procedure has been declared, by Israel's legislature, to be a crime, punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a fine of up to $20,000. Countries on the list include England, Norway, France and Portugal. The practice is legal in the United States and Canada.courtesy of Google Images

Declawing is primarily an elective surgery, known as an onychectomy, which eliminates the claws by amputating part of the toes. It would be analogous to cutting ones fingers off at the top knuckle. It is not a manicure.  The procedure is painful, can affect the cat's behavior permanently, and will render the cat defenseless should he/she leave the house.

Absent a medical, non "elective" need to perform the surgery, such as a the presence of a tumor,  the removal of which would still be limited to the affected toe(s), an onychectomy is usually requested so a pet cat will not scratch, ruin furniture or require weekly nail trimmings. Some justify the procedure by asserting that more cats would be euthanized as families simply don't want to deal with the claws and would not adopt the cats.

Providing a cat with designated scratching areas, capping their claws with glue on soft nail tips, and learning how to keep nails trim are all humane and practical alternatives to elective surgery.

Finally, choosing fabrics and floors that are stylish, pet friendly, resist and camouflage hair and scratches allows for matching the decor to the cat rather than surgically altering the cat to match the decor. Additionally, decorating with pets in mind will ultimately reduce stress and foster a lasting bond between the humans and their companion animals.

Article first published as Israel Bans Cat Declawing on Technorati.

Dec 2, 2011

Military Dogs Suffer From Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

courtesy of Google Images
Courtesy Google Images

Military dogs, like their human soldiers, can return home with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). And why are we surprised? The dogs are asked to locate mines, improvised explosives, search structures and even to assist in the capture of terrorists like Bin Laden. They experience the noises, sights and smells of active combat which in many cases affects their behavior and personalities in the field and upon returning home.

The New York Times reported that more than 5 percent of the approximately 650 deployed military dogs are developing some form of canine PTSD. According to the Times, the number of active duty dogs has increased to 2,700, from 1,800 in 2001. Symptoms among dogs vary. Some develop hyper-vigilance, experience fear of certain places that remind them of the trauma or become uncharacteristically aggressive. Others can become withdrawn, timid or lethargic. It can become dangerous for the dogs and soldiers alike if the disorder interferes with the dog's ability to perform properly.

Dr. Walter F. Burghardt Jr., chief of behavioral medicine at the Daniel E. Holland Military Working Dog Hospital at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio has posted a series of videos to help train veterinarians to recognize canine PTSD. One features a dog trained to inspect the inside of a car who then refuses to go inside a bus or a building. Another "sits listlessly on a barrier wall, then after finally responding to its handler’s summons,  runs away from a group of Afghan soldiers."

"Our biggest issue that we have with canines is canine PTSD," Army Lt. Col. Richard A. Vargus told the Military Times in September. "We've seen a significant issue with that because when you're standing 10 feet away from an explosion, the dog has emotions and the dog is affected as well." Vargus said that a dog experiencing fear reactions could bite its handler, run away and hide, or simply cower when its team is preparing to go on patrol.  The Military Times further reported that according to United States Central Command 14 military working dogs have been killed in action, 6  have been wounded, and 3 are missing in action since May of 2010.
The treatment for dogs with PTSD can range from extra love and affection, specific training and conditioning to anti-anxiety drugs like Xanax. Some can return to work while others cannot.

Whether it is right or wrong we ask our dogs to do a lot for us. Dogs assist the disabled, patrol with police officers, search for cadavers at disaster sites and serve in the military. They are neither bulletproof nor free from fear and emotions.

Let's remember that and do something compassionate and kind for a dog today.

Article first published as Military Dogs Suffer From Post Traumatic Stress Disorder on Technorati

Nov 28, 2011

Obama Legalizes Horse Slaughter for Human Consumption in the U.S.

UPDATE: President Obama signed budget measure that prohibits using federal inspection funds for the horse slaughtering process.

UPDATE: Opening of slaughter plants in New Mexico and Iowa temporarily stopped by judge to consider the need for environmental studies. Also, the New Mexico Environmental Department declined a request to renew Valley Meat Co.'s (slaughterhouse) waste-water discharge permit.  Robert Redford and former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson forming foundation to stop the return to domestic horse slaughter.

UPDATE: Horse slaughter plant to open soon in New Mexico , slaughter ban lifted in Oklahoma after 50 years, and USDA predicts more to follow ...

Horse slaughter plants are legal again in the United States. Restrictions on horse meat processing for human consumption have been lifted.  courtesy of Google Images

In a bipartisan effort, the House of Representatives and the United States Senate approved the Conference Committee report on spending bill H.R. 2112, which among other things, funds the United States Department of Agriculture.  On November 18th, as the country was celebrating Thanksgiving, President Obama signed a law, allowing Americans to kill and eat horses. Essentially, one turkey was pardoned in the presence of worldwide media while in the shadows, buried under pages of fiscal regulation, millions of horses were sentenced to death.

Horse slaughter has been prohibited in the United States as funding for inspections of horses in transit and at slaughter houses was non-existent. This worked because the horse meat cannot be sold for human consumption without such inspections. The House version of the bill retained the de-funding language and the Senate version did not. The conference committee charged with reconciling the two opted to not include it. The result is that it is now legal to slaughter horses for humans to eat.

Notwithstanding that 70% of Americans oppose horse slaughter, that President Obama made a campaign promise to permanently ban horse slaughter and exports of horses for human consumption (horses can be sent to Mexico and Canada), that documentation of animal cruelty, slaughterhouse stench, fluid runoff and negative community impact exists, it is taxpayers that will bear the costs!

Wyoming state representative Sue Wallis and her pro-slaughter group estimate that between 120,000 and 200,000 horses will be killed for human consumption per year and that Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Georgia and Missouri, are considering opening slaughter plants.

During these trying times, is the only thing that Democrats and Republicans can agree on is that Americans need to eat horses?

Article first published as Obama Legalizes Horse Slaughter for Human Consumption on Technorati.

Nov 22, 2011

He Walked into my Cat-House and Placed iPads on the Floor

A man walked into my cat-house and placed his iPad on the floor.
courtesy spcaLA
The purpose of the visit was to film an episode of a program about cats. They came to spcaLA (not affiliated with any other spca as there is no national/umbrella spca) to film in our luxurious cage free indoor outdoor catteries. Part of the program called for a segment involving cats playing the iPad game - "GameForCats". Essentially, a mouse, butterfly or laser dot moves around the screen and chirps if touched. The cat earns points for each successful touch. 

I could do nothing but cringe as I thought about claws, scratches, spray, and hair  balls, all attacking the iPad. There were, after all, about 20 cats lounging in that area. I couldn't watch.

Then it happened. Groups of cats surrounded the tablet. Some began to swat at the moving targets and some just leaned in their heads and nodded furiously as the others played. One enterprising cat sat on the iPad and racked up zillions of points each time the mouse, butterfly or red dot moved under him. Of course, we began yelling "unfair" and tried to explain to the cat that playing that way could be considered cheating! The cats however, ignored us and continued to pat the iPad when the targets came out from under the offending cat.

Notwithstanding one bossy cat who didn't want to share and caused some hurt feelings the event was quite successful. There was no damage to the iPad and the bruised feelings were quickly addressed and assuaged.

I learned, just in time for the holidays, that an iPad can be the perfect gift for the cat who has everything, and the perfect donation for the cat in a shelter who is homeless and has nothing.

Article first published as My Cat Needs an iPad on Technorati

Nov 18, 2011

What do Penn State, Herman Cain, Wall Street banks, aspca, and the Ku Klux Klan have in common?

What do Penn State, Herman Cain, Wall Street banks, aspca, and the Ku Klux Klan have in common?

Courtesy Google Images
They each embody a story of abuse of power in one form or another. Whether set against a landscape of sexual abuse, sexual harassment, corporate greed, the strong picking on the weak or the majority tormenting the minority - the tales are the same. They are sagas about bullying-plain and simple. Specifically, they represent methods of using superior strength of influence to intimidate and/or force a victim to do what the bully wants. (Paraphrased from the On Line Dictionary)

The bullies prey on our wish to pursue happiness free from conflict and pain by using threats of retaliation, physical harm, loss of job, loss of good reputation and economic clout. Like an ordinary street gang, they conspire with one another to guard their secret handshake and to extort silence from victims so the gang can thrive. In fact, some may thrive so well as to become too big to fail!  For example, fear of losing a job, being labeled a "trouble maker", or being called a slut, might cause a victim of sexual harassment to think twice before complaining. Or, the risk of negative publicity and attendant loss of funding and stature might motivate the trustees of a well-regarded institution to allow the rape and molestation of youngsters to continue unimpeded for a decade. Remaining tight-lipped about the unfettered packaging of mystery financial instruments or the misleading practices of a charitable corporation suggesting that they are an "umbrella" organization, permits the innocent to invest or to donate under false pretenses-which is precisely the point as the purchase or gift might not occur if the truth were known.

Whether cowering behind a corporate veil or a white sheet, those in power rape, steal and overpower those who can neither fight back nor identify the attacker. Sadly, in the Penn State situation, where there were even actual witnesses, they appeared to be ethically impotent and rendered silent by fear or retaliation and exile by the powers that be. In a horrifying development, one of the Penn State victims is being bullied by the students in his high school as punishment for "taking down" the heroes of the college football universe.

Thus, if one looks closely, the twenty four hour news cycle has only one story to report. That is: the Queen of Hearts wants things her way or no way, and that she will own and dominate the planet. Objectors (as identified by her cronies) will be beheaded. Breaking news - a big bully strikes again!

Our constitution defends minority rights, religions, and the right of a single voice to speak against the government. There are laws designed to protect the individual and those weaker and vulnerable to abuse by the reigning clique. And still - the large pummel the small, the majority taunts the minority, the big kid throws sand on the little kid and the little kid kicks a puppy.

As long as we ravage the environment because we can, exploit and torture animals because we can, subjugate women and children because we can, decimate minority constituencies because we can, and laud power over the frail because we can - we are doomed to forever travel in circles powered by the biggest oar in the boat.

Who do I see about this?

Nov 17, 2011

People Power - Give to Local Charities

I am a big believer in the power of the people. Voting, boycotts, consumer power, social activism and philanthropy are all ways to be heard and effect change. The power of one can move mountains when acting in concert with many.  One million people each donating one dollar to the same charity will result in a million dollars for a cause. On "Move Your Money Day" over seven hundred thousand consumers left large, "too big to fail" banks and placed their funds in credit unions and community banks. "Small Business Saturday" is a day where everyone is being asked to make just one purchase from a small business rather than from a large conglomerate.  And of course, Arianna Huffington started a wave of defections from large banks with  the "Move Your Money" initiative.

coutesy google images
The common theme: support your communities and your local businesses. It starts with the power of one. If I am strong and solvent I can care for another. Then we two can help a third and so on. We can then hire one who needs a job, shop in a local store and build up our neighborhood so that it is strong and able to thrive. Strong neighborhoods are the foundations of strong cities and so on and so forth.

Let us add "Give to Local Charities" to the mix.  The resources, new jobs, services and aid to needy victims will boost the local economy thus strengthening the community’s ability to prosper. As an auxiliary benefit one can actually visit the charity, participate in the effort, and confirm that the funds are actually benefitting the area rather than merely assuming so. For example, in the animal welfare industry,  aspca, the New York City spca is not an umbrella organization which funnels funds to other spcas by zip code as is the case with other real national charities like Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. spcas throughout the country are individual legal entities and not chapters of any mother organization.Yet aspca spends tens of millions of dollars annually on television and other fundraising outlets which omit that significant fact. Many consumers are duped and upset upon learning that their donation did not help abused and unwanted animals  in their communities. By the way, to their credit, hsus, began putting such language (that they are not affiliated with local humane societies) on their new television spots to avoid creating a misimpression and thereby attracting misinformed donors. I hope this is a first step in putting meaningful disclaimers on all of their materials.

Finally, many local charities are now shuttered having fallen victim to our horrific economy. Foreclosures, unemployment, and higher prices for everything have impacted people's ability to spare hard earned funds. Yet, it is the not-for-profit community that those in need depend upon as a safety net to provide critical services and fill the gaps left by diminishing government programs and the profit sector. What if we're not there?

Please - vote, shop locally, care, stay active in the community and Give to Local Charities. If you can afford to donate to multiple organizations - please do. If not -  please choose your local organizations.

Nov 3, 2011

Traveling Circus Protection Act Reintroduced to Congress

google images
Originally launched in 2011, H.R.4525, the Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act (TEAPA), which would amend the Federal Animal Welfare Act to prohibit the use of an exotic or wild animal in an animal act, if, "during the 15-day period preceding such participation, such animal was traveling in a mobile housing facility" simply stalled in congress.

Congressman Jim Moran, (D-Virginia)  reintroduced the bill again and we need a strong showing of support for this effort.  Essentially, this would severely cripple the ability of small traveling circuses to exist and would require major changes to larger outfits like Ringling Brothers. In other words, the circus or exhibit just cannot come into town for one day and move on, but rather, it would have to have longer stays in each place with the additional financing for personnel and accommodations attendant to longer stays.

Animals don't magically appear at theaters, festivals, and fairs. They spend most of their time cooped up, sometimes chained, traveling in trains, trucks and the like. When they are not performing or rehearsing, they are also confined, often in minimal spaces for efficiency, ease of transport and cost concerns. When they are "on", they are contorting themselves and performing unnatural acts for our amusement. These animals are stressed, ill-used, and, as such develop health and behavioral issues often resulting in more confining and training "corrections". This is no life for these exotics and should be an unacceptable form of entertainment for a civilized society.

This bill is much appreciated and long overdue. We must work together to see that it passes.

It also wouldn't hurt to simultaneously encourage your local cities to simply ban circuses using live animals in your communities and to suggest that your schools not consider these acts as positive educational experiences for field trips. 

To identify and contact your Congressperson, go to: https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml

To identify and contact your Senator, go to:

Oct 28, 2011

$100,000 For A Cloned Dog?

A man in New Mexico paid $100,000 to clone Old Blue, his dying dog. He sent Blue's, DNA to a laboratory in South Korea while he was still alive, where it was stored until the request came to proceed with the cloning. Blue, the new puppy is a genetic replica of Old Blue and appears to be his carbon copy.

Google Images
This is not yet an exact science and not without a physical price paid by laboratory dogs as well. Eggs have to be extracted from a large number of dogs; cloned embryos must then be implanted in other dogs so that, maybe, a couple of pregnancies might "take". Additionally, the resulting dog may look very similar to the original dog but not have the behavior, personality, and essence  of the original. There are not enough cloned dogs in existence to determine whether there are any long term health or medical issues attendant to this process.

I certainly understand the attachment and love one feels towards a dog. Yet, when I think about the millions of dogs in this country killed for no other reason than insufficient time to wait for a home, or all the wonderful dogs that we do find in shelters, I just can't support cloning.  When I think about each time I thought my dog was the most unique and wonderful dog in the universe, to only feel that way again about another dog, it taught me to accept death as a way of life and celebrate the differences in each of our pets.

Finally, when I think of those willing to spend $100,000. or more on a cloned pet, I see people who really loved their pet and would ask them to, instead, adopt one from a shelter and donate the remaining funds to help other pets find health, happiness and a home.

Oct 24, 2011

Allow Dogs On Designated Beaches

UPDATE - Oct 25th - Santa Monica city council passed a resolution which directs staff to work with the state of California to establish, on a pilot basis, an off-leash area for dogs on the beach and down to the waterline. Monitoring for environmental effects will be part of the pilot program. Your spcaLA was asked to and will be involved!

spcaLA, a corporation serving California since 1877, is urging the City of Santa Monica to permit off-leash beach zones for dogs and their human companions.
courtesy spcaLA

The human animal bond is cherished, strong, and enhanced by the availability of activities that humans and their pets can do together. Besides mutual companionship there are other benefits to allowing dog friendly recreation areas.

The off-leash area serves a social center which brings together people with common interests who can exercise and play together with their dogs. The care and maintenance of these areas is critical to their continued enjoyment which increases the peer pressure to abide by the rules and promote responsible dog and human behavior.  Concerns about water pollution, diseases, excessive poop and overcrowding simply have not proven credible either pursuant to scientific studies or from studies of existing dog beaches.

In recognition of the fact that many treat their dog as part of the family, more and more hotels, restaurants, parks and amusement areas have made major strides in accommodating pets so scarce leisure time can be spent all together as a family. 

We ask the City of Santa Monica to do the same and designate a place where dogs and their human companions can play, rest, and responsibly enjoy the beach.

The issue will be heard Tues. Oct 25 at the Santa Monica City Council Meeting. Please urge the powers that be to designated a place for dogs and their human friends at our beach.  Thank you.

Mayor Richard Bloom    richard.bloom@smgov.net
Mayor Pro Tempore Gleam Davis     gleam.davis@smgov.net
Robert Holbrook  robert.holbrook@smgov.net
Kevin McKeown   kevin@mckeown.net
Pam O'Connor     pam.oconnor@smgov.net
Terry O'Day         terry.oday@smgov.net
Bobby Shriver      bobby.shriver@smgov.net

Oct 19, 2011

Loose Wild Animals Gunned Down in Ohio

Wild animals, including lions, tigers, bears, and wolves, were turned loose from a private collectors' property in Zanesville, Ohio. It is believed that the owner of the site, Terry Thompson, turned the animals loose before dying from a self-inflicted wound. Schools were closed, and the public was directed to stay inside as there were reports of wild animals running loose outside the property. Approximately 50 animals were believed to live at that site. 
Lion Shot in Ohio - Courtesy of Associated Press

Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz issued the order to shoot to kill the animals in the name of public safety. Most of the animals were killed pursuant to Lutz's directive while a few were still being sought.

According to Lutz, about 40 of the animals were killed while still inside the property. Lutz justified this by saying they were short on daylight, they had no sedatives and were concerned about safety. It is unclear why they could not, instead, shut the fence, secure the perimeter, gather experts, supplies and create a plan to contain the animals inside, alive, until daylight while focusing on capturing the animals outside the perimeter that could actually threaten the public. 

The real problem here is the ease with which permits for captive and exotic wildlife can be obtained. Whether one simply wants a pet primate or wishes to house lions for canned hunts, exhibitions or circuses, they need only pay a permit fee. Enforcement of permit requirements and compliance inspections are often infrequently conducted if at all. Whether a lion is kept as a pet or rented out for television commercials etc., he or she is still a dangerous wild animal living in close proximity to people, ostensibly for commercial entertainment. Veterinary care, food and security are expensive which can result in inhumane treatment, substandard husbandry and housing structures, and, in many cases, escape.

In this case, numerous complaints regarding the Thompson compound ranging from animal cruelty to loose animals were lodged with the authorities in Zanesville and, according to Lutz "has been a huge problem for us for a number of years". Gunning them down in the compound solved that problem.

In the end, the animal always suffers. Whether improperly cared for in captivity or killed by a panicked sheriff without a plan, the animal always loses. And in every case, a wild animal will behave true to his or her nature.

There must be an immediate halt to the issuing of such permits, a re-evaluation of the status of current permit holders, and an investigation of Lutzs' handling of this case.

Now there are even fewer Bengal tigers in our world, or as Lutz called him or her "this thing".

Article first published as Loose Wild Animals Gunned Down in Ohio on Technorati.

Oct 2, 2011

Landlords - Stop Gouging Pet Owners!

google images
Google Images
When the going gets tough, the tough gouge the vulnerable. In this case, the vulnerable are pet owners seeking to rent or lease homes and apartments. The trend is to charge pet owners extra rent in addition to a non-refundable pet security deposit over and above a standard security deposit. People are put in the untenable position of either choosing between a home and a beloved family pet or paying substantially extra to have both. Thus, the landlord benefits from the "haves" who can afford the inflated rates and the "have nots" who will sacrifice other needs so as not to rip a pet from the arms of a crying child. 

At a time when unemployment is raging and homes are being foreclosed in record numbers, this trend is particularly unconscionable and the pain caused is particularly acute. It further victimizes those already suffering severe blows to their lifestyle, but it also contributes to more pets being turned into shelters at a time when shelters are also struggling with a decrease in funding. In California, so many animals were simply abandoned in foreclosed homes that a law had to be passed to instruct and mandate realtors to arrange for those animals to be rescued. 

Notwithstanding the fact that in some states, like California, a non-refundable deposit is actually illegal, and the amount of a legal deposit is limited to twice or thrice the amount of a month's rent, the homeless apartment seeker or lessee often lacks the time and wherewithal to litigate the issue either at the beginning or end of the rental or lease period.

Additionally, pet owners who are willing to add to a legal, refundable security deposit should damage, beyond reasonable wear and tear, occur as a result of a pet, are being told that it is not enough despite the fact that such is the stated purpose of such a deposit. Likewise, where the free market would support a legal, higher "pet rent", landlords are still requiring additional "pet security deposits". 
Squeezing both a rent surcharge and an extra deposit from a tenant is simply gouging as it holds the pet owner hostage until a ransom is paid.

There is no shortage of this type of opportunistic pricing that occurs during disasters, crises, or when a fellow human being is in a bind. During fires we see cheap motels asking $600 a night to shelter those whose homes were destroyed, and a radio battery or a bottle of water sold to the highest bidder. And, now, we see landlords doing the same to pet owners, as they have realized that to many, giving up a pet is tantamount to a disaster.

I would remind the landlords that karma can be a bitch - no pun is intended.

Article first published as Landlords are Gouging Pet Owners on Technorati

Sep 28, 2011

Porn and Animal Suffering - a Good Combo?

Google Images
Peta is about to launch a porn site, peta.xxx, that will juxtapose graphic sexual images with those of animals suffering in order to encourage and to promote a vegan lifestyle. I am not bothered by the use of explicit sexual images, or depicting the realities of suffering animals, (welcome to my world), or trying a variety of nontraditional ways to get noticed and bring attention to an issue. I also respect Peta's work, and ethical position, in that, unlike aspca or hsus, Peta does its thing while always encouraging people to support their local shelters, rather than advertising and behaving as if they were a national/umbrella organization, as is the wont of aspca and hsus.

That said, I have one concern about pairing sexual stimulation with animal abuse, and that is the conjuring up of crush videos. In the crush genre, sexual arousal comes from watching a provocatively dressed woman in stilettos, stomp, crush and kill a small animal that is taped to the floor and crying in pain.

The sub rosa crush fetishist must feed himself secretly, away from the watchful eye of spcaLA and other law enforcement agencies as the actual harming of an animal is against the law. My fear is that linking sexual arousal with images of animals suffering in a public mainstream market can have the unintended consequences of granting an imprimatur of that feeling and/or legitimizing that behavior and lifestyle. 

Just think about it ......

Sep 20, 2011

President Obama: Step Away From Our Charity

President Obama claims to not want to solve the nation’s financial crisis on the “backs of the needy”. Yet by cutting allowable contributions to charity, through his new jobs bill, he will do precisely that. Who does President Obama think is reliant upon non-profits if not the “needy”?

The new jobs bill will reduce the percentage of income that donors can write off for charitable gifts and will limit tax breaks for such gifts.

spcaLA officer responding to devastation after Katrina
Government spending on social programs is shrinking, Americans dropping to the poverty level is increasing, unemployment is rising, and disposable income left to donate to a charity is nil.  To reduce philanthropic gifts to the not-for-profit sector is counter-intuitive.  In other words, non-profits are needed now, more than ever.

As a former community organizer, Obama must know that in horrid economic times, philanthropic entities are filling the gaps left by the government and the for-profit sector.  If charities collapse, there will be no relief for those dependent upon our services.  Non-profits are businesses too.  We provide jobs (we are hiring now!), resources, and services that allow a community to thrive.  We are the safety net that cushions the fall when the government and all else fails.

At its inception in 1877, spcaLA was responsible for protecting women, children and animals as they were legally considered property, and as such abused, exploited, overworked, underpaid and discarded.  spcaLA was also incorporated as an spcc (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) as we preceded the enactment of child labor laws and social service programs.   In 2011, spcaLA boasts anti-violence programs for at-risk youth, domestic violence programs to assist those who would risk their lives not to leave a pet behind and an elite disaster response unit that travels nationwide to assist animals and their people.  These programs are also essential as there is undisputed evidence that crimes against animals are a predictor and precursor of crimes against humans.  It is us, the non-profit, who works with those troubled teens.  It is our educators who work in the classrooms and provide age-appropriate humane education curricula to teachers who would not otherwise have them.  We are just one charity – imagine the impact, scope, and reach of all of us together.

Corporations and the wealthy that are willing to contribute to our much needed programs must be allowed to do so at current rates if not at higher ones.  Across the country, charities that provide meals, shelter, hospital services and the like are now shuttered due to already existing funding shortages.  With all due respect, this bill would be cutting the last lifeline to many of us in the non-profit sector.  Is this not contrary to the president’s message asks the “haves” to help provide for the “have nots”?  That is philanthropy – those with funds fund those without.

The argument that the jobs bill will put more people to work and therefore will generate more funding for charities is a faulty one.  These temporary infrastructure jobs will indeed provide a helping hand to those who are drowning but they will not generate the type of financial security that can tolerate charitable contributions.

I ask President Obama not to deprive those that depend upon the non-for-profit sector for their survival and not to not rob the philanthropic community to pay America’s debts.

We live in a time where neither Peter nor Paul has anything else to spare.

Sep 10, 2011

Law Enforcement Dogs Are Not Bullet Proof - A Thought for 9/11

Google Images
Police dogs risk their lives in the line of duty every day.

Kane, a police dog was mortally stabbed in Washington,  Gunner was stabbed in Memphis, Zac was stabbed in Australia, Solo was shot in Wisconsin and New Zealand lists dozens of dogs killed while on duty. All over the globe dogs are asked to apprehend suspects, search for explosives, go to war in Afghanistan and even assist in the capture of Bin Laden, often without any protective gear.

Occasionally, a philanthropist or concerned citizen will provide bullet proof vests for dogs in their communities. Such is the case for four lucky dogs in the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office, courtesy of Ben Roethlisberger, the quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Ben Roethlisberger Foundation is awarding grants like this to police and fire departments in cities located where the Steelers are scheduled to play away games.

It seems to me that outfitting dogs with vests and other gear should be mandatory if law enforcement is permitted to use them. Dogs often go into a dangerous situation first, are sent, without their human partners, into spaces too small for humans, and are asked to subdue armed felons with no defensive protection for themselves. Instead of mourning the lives of slain canine officers and erecting monuments of their likenesses, why not give them basic protection before putting them in harm's way. Frankly, not doing so seems, negligent, crazy and cruel. Thousands of dollars and hours are expended on training and preparing these canine assets only for some bureaucrat to "cheap out" on a vest. The vests should be provided by the law enforcement agency hiring the dog so all dogs are covered rather than having them "rely on the kindness of strangers". No protection- no dog must be the new rule.

Finally, as we approach the tenth anniversary of 9/11, remember the victims, pay tribute to the responders and commiserate with loved ones suddenly bereaved, we must also acknowledge the working dogs that responded to ground zero and continue to assist law enforcement at airports, borders, police and fire departments in their efforts to keep us all safer-usually without vests.

Article first published as Police Dogs Get Shot Too on Technorati.

Aug 30, 2011

"They Paved Paradise and Put Up a Parking Lot" - City DestroysTrees for Shelter Banners

It is a shameful thing that the City of Los Angeles through the Department of Animal Control allowed the chopping down of over a dozen mature pepper trees that provided nesting locations for birds and shade for animals and customers of the East Valley Animal Shelter in Van Nuys.

courtesy Google images
It is sad that the trees were destroyed in order to hang banners and that this was arranged and funded by animal welfare activists Pamelyn Ferdin, of Animal Defense League-Los Angeles, and Steven Jay Bernheim of the Bernheim Foundation.

It is also really dysfunctional, though not surprising, that Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is touting the Million Trees LA initiative, a tree planting program, while another city official is cutting mature trees down.

It is ironic that "the pepper trees were integral to the $23.2 million, LEEDS-certified East Valley shelter. Financed by voter-approved Proposition F bonds, it opened in May 2007 to replace the old Van Nuys pound." (Daily News ( Los Angeles) 

LEEDS stands for "Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design"!

I believe that those of us interested in animal welfare should be mindful of conservation and environmental issues as well. Protecting the environment helps us all, not just a specific bird in a specific tree. Safeguarding the planet's resources sustains both animal and human life forms as the ecosystems and food chains are all interconnected and symbiotic. To do otherwise seems inconsistent and self-defeating.

"The sun, the moon, and the stars would have disappeared long ago, had they happened to be within reach of predatory human hands." - Havelock Ellis

Aug 26, 2011

Polar Bear in Alaska Hazed to Death by BP Security Guard

A polar bear was shot by a security guard hired to protect BP's Endicott Field compound on the North Slope of Alaska. Polar bears are considered a "threatened species" and it is illegal under federal law to kill them. Measures to protect the polar bears notwithstanding, it is still legal to "haze" or scare them if they threaten humans but only by non-lethal means.courtesy Google Images

BP asserts that this was a hazing gone wrong. BP Alaska spokesperson Steve Rinehart claims the guard thought he fired a bean bag at the bear that was approaching the compound, but "accidentally" used a cracker shell instead which struck a fatal blow. Cracker shells are a type of ammo that is loud, has characteristics of an explosive, and can propel explosives large distances. There use has recently come under fire by the Department of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms and other government offices as too dangerous and unpredictable to use without a proper license.

Rinehart went on to say that the "polar bear death is the first time in 35 years of working on the North Slope that a bear has been killed by a security guard working for BP, and we dearly wish it had not happened".

Unfortunately it took the bear several days to die from the wound.  The United States Department of Fish And Wildlife Service is investigating the killing. I hope they answer these and other questions:

  1. The bear was shot on August 3rd. Why are we just hearing about it? Was there a cover-up?
  2. How does one confuse an explosive shell  with a bean bag?
  3. How much training does the security guard have in the use of these weapons?
  4. If he couldn't tell the bear was hit-how close was the bear really?
  5. Was the bear actually threatening anybody?
  6. Were permits needed for the shells? Did BP have them?
  7. How much more of our wildlife and environment are we going to let BP destroy? Remember the Gulf of Tears

I "dearly wish" BP and its guard company are held accountable.

Article first published as A Threatened Polar Bear Killed by BP Security Guard in Alaska on Technorati.

Aug 25, 2011

Pot Pain Patch for Pets Coming Soon

A Seattle company has developed a marijuana pain patch for use on dogs, cats and horses suffering from arthritis, cancer, and other chronic pain. The company, Medical Marijuana Delivery Systems (MMDS), acquired a patent for the patch which was developed in 2000 by Walter Cristobal of the Santa Ana Pueblo Tribe of New Mexico. According to Culture Magazine, Mr. Cristobal created a marijuana skin patch to ease his mother's arthritis discomfort and was ultimately awarded a patent. courtesy Google Images

This patch allows the trans-cutaneous (through the skin) delivery of the marijuana instead of the traditional smoking, inhaling or eating of the drug and as an alternative to traditional pain medication.

The patch will be sold under the trademark Tertacan, and should be available in the United States by the end of this year. Jim Alekson, a spokesperson for MMDS, called the pot patch a "mellow alternative to traditional pharmaceutical painkillers, which have proven harmful, sometimes fatal in animals". The patch will also be available for humans.

Many state laws will have to be amended to allow the purchase of medical marijuana, to allow veterinarians to legally prescribe it, and to allow people who are legally allowed to have medical marijuana to give it to their pets.

Clearly, proper prescribing and dosing are critical, as is the case with any pain patch issued for humans and animals, and abuse can be quite serious.  Pets have had serious reactions to pot accidentally ingested or deliberately given to them as a prank. Reactions can include listlessness, uncoordinated physical movements, disorientation, incontinence and other symptoms consistent with the toxicity of an overdose. Most state laws consider illegally providing, or negligently allowing a pet access to pot a crime.

Don't try this at home yet.

Article first published as A Medicinal Pot Patch For Pets Coming Soon on Technorati

Aug 24, 2011

This Is Loyalty

If any one is neither convinced of the intensity and strength of the human animal bond nor persuaded of the mutual loyalty between the two, you need only look at this picture posted by NPR.

The dog of slain Petty Officer Jon Tumilson refused to leave his side during the Navy SEAL’s funeral earlier this week in Rockford, Iowa. The heartbreaking photo taken by his cousin, Lisa Pembleton, shows Tumilson’s dog Hawkeye lying by the casket. (via The Daily Treat: Animal Planet)

This is a bond so strong that some would choose death rather than leave their pet behind during a disaster evacuation, risk bodily harm to save a pet in danger and would grieve for a lifetime after the loss of this cherished family member. This is a bond so strong that a family pet would and has risked his or her life to protect a human companion.

Our work is to obtain such a relationship for all homeless pets, support humans in their effort to provide such a life, and to allow this bond to flourish free from acts of cruelty and derision. It is not a junk bond but rather a priceless treasure.

May Petty Officer John Tumilson and Hawkeye both find peace.

Aug 22, 2011

They Do Shoot Horses . . .

Courtesy Google Images
I was honored to be asked to partake in the festivities surrounding the film Saving America's Horses screened at the Artivist Film Festival this past weekend. It is a heart breaking documentary which details the systematic eradication of our wild horse population by the Bureau of Land Management and its sub-contractors, as well as the inhumane treatment of horses after their service as racers, entertainers and family pets. It depicts the horrific journeys of horses from our back yards to slaughterhouses as their mere existence has become an inconvenience to consumers, cattle ranchers, race track denizens and the like.

Essentially, our horses have been relegated to the status of disposable pests, betrayed by those in our government charged with their protection and conservation, and sacrificed by special interest groups who need them eliminated for their special projects. Worse than that is the misinformation disseminated to us, the taxpayers, about the true destiny, killed, of these horses.

Many times in the film, those interviewed claimed to be either tricked by kill buyers (those selling horses for slaughter) posing as adopters of unwanted horses or those with eyes shut wide who simply did not want to know where their racehorse or pet was really going once they stopped winning or started costing more.

Courtesy spcaLA archives
Horses are the very soul of the animal welfare movement. It was the physical abuse of carriage horses that served as the catalyst for the creation of spcas in this country. spcaLA opened  in 1877 to protect horses, (transportation) beasts of burden, (factory labor) pets, women and children, (all legally property) from being overworked, over-driven, starved, exploited and tormented.  It is the horses that we must protect and to whom we should pay homage.

We have to open our eyes, noses and mouths to save America's horses. We must see what is really happening, follow up when a "story" doesn't pass the smell test, and broadcast the truth to the people.

We can start by urging the passage of Senate Bill 1176 - American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act of 2011 and remaining vigilant and analytical when issues involving horses arise in individual states as well.

Black Beauty, a family pet that was sold as a carriage horse in London, laments her suffering and pines for earlier times when she was loved and coddled, states:
                          We don't get to choose the people in our lives.  For us, it's all chance.
                                                            Anna Sewell (Black Beauty)

It doesn't have to be so.

Aug 15, 2011

100% Support of Public Private Relationships-When I Can See Them

In the past few weeks, there has been a whirlwind of opinion and activity around the City of Los Angeles considering a public-private partnership to operate the Northeast Valley Animal Shelter.

I am 100% in support of public-private partnerships.  Very often, they work to eliminate redundancies and showcase the strengths of all parties – as you can see at the P.D. Pitchford Companion Animal Village & Education Center in Long Beach. 

Here are my thoughts – which I recently shared with the Los Angeles City Council and other key members of the Los Angeles infrastructure.
     Let the Sun Shine: City Business Should be Conducted in the Open

Who is responsible for overseeing the dealings of the City of Los Angeles, its Mayor and City Council?

It has been suddenly revealed that, behind closed doors, a sole source contract was negotiated between the City of Los Angeles and Best Friends -an out of state (Utah) animal sanctuary - to lease the Northeast Valley Animal Shelter from the City, the details of which are unknown even to the council members.

The allegation that an RFI (Request for Information) was issued and no one else applied, asserted during the August 12th City Council meeting, sounded lame in context. When asked how the RFI was issued, the details of the outreach and its posting were carefully skirted by the City. If legitimate local, Los Angeles animal welfare organizations knew nothing about it they could not apply.  In fact, no subsequent RFP (Request for Proposals) was actually distributed.  

But for the fact that spcaLA, after hearing that the Northeast Valley shelter was closing, contacted the Mayor’s office and offered assistance, we would not have know that a deal with Best Friends was in its final stages. 

At the council meeting this past Friday, it was apparent that many council members did not realize the secret nature of this deal, that they were shocked that an actual contract was presented to them for execution, that no study of existing public-private models were conducted to ensure the best arrangement for their constituents and our animals, and, that Councilmember Alarc√≥n, in whose district the shelter resides knew nothing about it!   The above notwithstanding, some of our council members were still willing to approve this.

Let me be clear. Brenda Barnette is not to blame. These “goings on” preceded her. 

I must insist on clarity. What is the source of this “collusive” relationship between Best Friends and our City officials?  Who is their secret best friend such that a sole source contract should evolve and the terms of said contract should escape public scrutiny? Does simply leasing part of a shelter create public-private collaboration or should there be a true collaboration where public and private entities work side by side to maximize services and benefits to constituents and our animals in a cost effective matter.  Is there a master plan to privatize the Department of Animal Control and its multiple service areas in a way that each location will play to its strengths so that the whole becomes greater than its synergistic parts?  Is there a comprehensive business plan? 

Frankly, the clearly embarrassed and uninformed council needs to demand that this issue be brought into the light of public scrutiny, that a plan of action to manage the animals while proper vetting of the plans and their respective applicants can occur, and to put procedures in place that prevents this from happening again.  

Indeed, those who wish for nothing more than to best help the animals and people of Los Angeles could do so in collaboration for a reasonable period of time while the intricacies and implications of the public-private model for Los Angeles Animal Services and non-profit organizations are studied. I would be more than happy to facilitate this.

The City business is required to be conducted in the “sunshine”. The fact that it wasn't is my complaint.